Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Spy Who Loved Me

The best James Bond adventure of the 1970s is also the best of Roger Moore’s Bond films and one of the best ever made. THE SPY WHO LOVED ME features breathtaking Oscar-nominated sets designed by Ken Adam (Pinewood Studios had to build a huge new stage — christened the 007 Stage — to accommodate them), location shooting in nine (!) different countries, a well-crafted screenplay by series veteran Richard Maibaum (GOLDFINGER) and newcomer Christopher Wood (MOONRAKER), and the introduction of one of the series’ greatest villains: the seven-foot steel-toothed assassin Jaws (Richard Kiel), who survives falls, crushings, electrocution, and shark attacks in indestructible fashion.

Lewis Gilbert, who directed the stunning finale of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE a decade earlier, was the perfect craftsman to juggle THE SPY WHO LOVED ME’s epic production, which opens with an exciting ski chase culminating in stuntman Rick Sylvester’s impressive jump off Mount Asgard and witty Union Jack parachute. From there, 007 (Moore for the third time) gets down to business, teaming up with Russian spy Anya Amasova (CAVEMAN’s Barbara Bach) to prevent megalomaniacal shipping magnate Karl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens) from conquering the world with stolen nuclear missiles and ruling from his ocean stronghold.

While Bond has the sultry KGB agent Amasova on his side, Stromberg stacks the deck with an army of colorfully jumpsuited minions, not to mention Jaws; the hulking Sandor (Milton Reid), reminiscent of GOLDFINGER’s Oddjob; and the sexy chopper-flying assassin Naomi, portrayed by British cult actress Caroline Munro (STARCRASH). He also has a shark tank that comes in handy when disciplining disloyal employees.

From a technical standpoint, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME is top-notch down the line. Derek Meddings’ miniatures are seamlessly blended with live-action photography to create the film’s authentic comic-book universe. The Maibaum/Wood screenplay isn’t afraid to inject real drama into the adventure, giving Moore and Bach juicy moments to play. Bond visibly flinches at Amasova’s mention of his late wife Tracy (from ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE) and doesn’t hesitate to kill a helpless enemy in cold blood — moments Moore handles with great assurance.

While the climactic assault on Stromberg’s wonderfully designed lair is the film’s best setpiece, mention must be made of the Italian car chase, which pits Bond’s tricked-out Lotus Esprit against a car, a motorcycle, and Naomi’s helicopter — a chase that continues underwater after the car transforms into a submarine. The only major misstep is Marvin Hamlisch’s disco-influenced score, which was nominated for an Academy Award (as was the theme song performed by Carly Simon), but pales compared to the Bond music composed by John Barry and David Arnold. Producer Albert R. Broccoli planned to produce FOR YOUR EYES ONLY next, but the success of STAR WARS induced him to make MOONRAKER, set in outer space, instead.

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